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Mum’s Date Squares

date squares on wood cutting board

To celebrate Mother’s Day, Melissa of the food blog breadandwords and I are teaming up together again to bring you two family recipes that our mothers made when we were young.

If you love empanadas, head over to breadandwords, to read about Melissa’s Mom’s traditional Argentinian Empanadas. I am definitely making some of those soon.

My Mum’s Date Squares were one of my family’s favourite desserts when I was little. They were the best ever: soft, toffee flavoured dates with a caramelized oat bottom and crumbly oat and sugar topping. With six of us in the family they never lasted long in our house.

date squares on wood cutting board

These date squares are quite sweet and not overly buttery. The lengthy baking time caramelizes the brown sugar in the bottom layer which makes it chewy while the top layer remains crumbly. We always loved my mom’s date squares.

woman on ship

My Mum inspired all of us in various ways. It was my Mom’s sense of adventure, I think, that always inspired me. My Mum came to Canada 70 years ago, on January 17, 1949. She bought a one-way ticket from England arriving at Pier 21, Halifax, Nova Scotia on a bright, sunny, wickedly cold day. At 28 years years old, and next to no money in her pocket, she was excited, free and full of adventure.

My Mum was always good at making the best of things.  She grew up without a Mum, with a very stern father, was shipped off to aunts homes for the school holidays, and from 1939-1945 was left in Birmingham, England during WWII to mind the shops as the rest of the family moved to the country for safety. I often wonder how my mom matured into such a happy adventure-seeking woman. But that she did.

My Mum’s two favourite past times were quiet, solitary activities: baking and reading. Reading was an activity she enjoyed ever since she was small.  She loved to tell us the tale about hiding out in an apple tree, eating a large juicy apple and reading a book, while her Aunt hollered for her to come help with the chores. (She actually did really like that Aunt, she was just tired of chores that day).

My Mum’s other favourite past time was baking. Her favourite recipes either came from friends, my dad’s relatives or British recipes she clipped out of the newspaper. She would have loved Instagram.

If Mum could read and bake at the same time she was the happiest. I think my mom liked making date squares more than anything else because she could do her two favourite activities simultaneously.

typed recipe card

recipe card

date squares on wood cutting board

I’m very fortunate that my Mum wrote down all the families’ favourite baking recipes. So it’s very easy for me to recreate them. Although, I’m sure nothing is ever as good as when your Mum makes something for you.

While I was making these dates squares, I could distinctly remember how my mom made them. After each step in the recipe she would curl up on the sofa to read while the dates cooked away on the stove, read some more as they cooled down in the pan and then read a little bit more as they baked in the oven. I think my mom had secret magical baking powers because she never used a timer but also never burnt the date squares. Or maybe each step took just as long as reading a chapter in her book.


date squares on wood cutting board



Mum's Date Squares

Print Recipe
Serves: 16 Cooking Time: 30 minutes


  • 1 pound dates
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups oats



Chop the dates roughly. Put the dates and brown sugar into a pot and add about 1 cup of water. Cook on a lowish heat until the dates are soft and spreadable. This should take about 10-15 minutes.


Place the flour in a food processor, add small cubes of cold butter and pulse about 10-15 times until butter mixture has fine lumps throughout. Place in a bowl and then add brown sugar and oats.


Spread half of the dry mixture in the bottom of an 8 inch baking pan. Gently spread date mixture on top. Sprinkle oat mixture on top.


Bake in a 350° F oven for 30 minutes, or until golden on top.


Let the squares cool down in the pan for about 30 minutes or more before serving.



Mango and Coconut Porridge Recipe

bowl of porridge with mango and coconut

I love oats. They are probably my favourite grain. I love them in bread, muffins, cookies as well as cooked for breakfast. If you browse through my blog, you’re going to find a lot of recipes using oats.

I especially love oats for breakfast. I think they make the most healthiest and filling breakfasts whether they are in granola or this recipe for porridge.When I make porridge, I don’t add any sweeteners. Instead I love to pile in loads of fruit. I use fresh fruit and berries in the summer, but in the winter when it’s hard to find fresh fruit or they are super expensive, I use frozen fruit.

My usual mix of fruit is mango, blueberry and sweet cherries, but one day I only had mango.  So, I just used what I had and couldn’t believe how perfectly mango goes with oats. Who would have guessed? Traditional porridge is usually cooked with raisins and brown sugar and served with an extra splash of maple syrup. But the smooth sweet flavour of tropical mango balances so well with nutty tasting oats, it’s like they were meant to go together. And forget the added sweetener: mangoes are so naturally sweet, you won’t need any.

Different Types of Oats

Steel-Cut: These are also known as Irish or Scottish Oats and are the closest to their original grain form. The oat kernel is cut one or two times to help it cook. Cooking steel-cut oats can take between 15-60 minutes. They are nutty, chewy and very nutritious.

Rolled Oats: Whole Oats are toasted, hulled, steamed and then flattened with giant rollers. Rolled oats take about 15-20 minutes to cook.

Quick Cooking Oats: These are similar to rolled oats, but have been cut before being steamed and flattened so they cook quicker. Try sprinkling some in muffins or pancake batter to add an extra texture.

Instant: These oats cook very quick. They are cut, pre-cooked, dried, steamed and flattened. They cook super fast, but because they’re been processed so much a lot of their nutrition has been lost.

Oat Flour: You can make oat flour by putting rolled oats in a blender or food processor. They add a nutty flavour to baked goods, as well as making them more moist and crumbly. You can substitute up to 30% of flour in a recipe with oat flour. Try it the next time you bake some muffins and see how you like it.

Oat Bran: This comes from the outer layer of the oat kernel. Whole Oats always contain oat bran, quick cooking or instant oats do not contain oat bran as it has been removed. Oat bran is high in fibre and is often eaten as a hotel cereal, sprinkled on cold cereal or added to bread, cookies and muffins for extra fibre.

Not only are oats delicious they are also super healthy. If you are also an oat lover, here are some cool nutrition facts about oats:

  • oats are low in calories and they slow digestion which helps you feel full longer.
  • 1/2 cup of oats has 150 calories, 5 g of protein, 27 g of carbs, 2 grams of fat and 4 grams of fibre.
  • oats help prevent constipation as they contain both soluble and insoluble fibre.
  • dietary fibres in oats decrease bad cholesterol (LDL) without affecting good cholesterol (HDL)
  • oats contain enterolactone and other plant lignans which protect against heart disease.
  • according to the American Cancer Society, lignan in oats also helps reduce the chances of hormone related cancers such as breast, prostate and ovarian cancer.

Enjoy cooking and baking with oats!

If you enjoy oats as much as I do, here is some additional reading:

A BBC Podcast on Oats

Stoats: A company focused on Oats

Baking with Oats


bol of porridge with mango and coconut

Mango and Coconut Porridge

Print Recipe
Serves: 1 Cooking Time: 5-8 minutes


  • 1/2 cup Whole Oats
  • 1 cup Water
  • Milk (or milk alternative)
  • Mangoes
  • Unsweeneted Shredded Coconut (toasted)



Toast coconut in a dry pan for a few minutes until golden.


Add 1/4 cup whole oats to pot and add 1 cup of water.


Bring to a boil, and simmer for about 5-8 minutes until oats are soft.


Add about 1/4 cup of milk or milk alternative. (optional).



Mocha Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies Recipe


With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I thought I would post this fantastic recipe for Mocha Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies. They are super chocolate-y and the espresso powder gives them a great oomph of flavour. And what could be a better gift for someone than a bunch of cookies all bundled up in red ribbon. These Valentine Day Mocha Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies would be a nice surprise in your partner’s lunch box, a sensational gift for your son or daughter’s teacher, or put some out on the table after dinner at home. Sweet Sensation!

I really love cookies. I love them for many different reasons: the endless flavours and varieties, they’re quick to make, they’re not very big but hit the spot without breaking the calorie bank and they are ubiquitous. Every culture makes cookies.

When I was little, my mom only made three types of cookies: sugar cookies, peanut butter cookies with raisins and oatmeal cookies that came from a package (all you had to do was add water and an egg). She never used a timer and always set the oven at 350 ° F. And, unlike my Mum’s Date and Oat Squares, my mom couldn’t finish a chapter of her book in the time it took to bake some cookies. So, we had our fair share of burnt cookies.

There are far too many varieties of cookies out there these days, for me to only make three types of cookies. So, my family is lucky in that way. I love trying new recipes. I made these Mocha Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies recently and they were a hit with everyone. They didn’t last long.

It doesn’t take very long to put together a batch of cookies, but, in order to do it properly, you do need to follow a few basic techniques.

  • make sure all of your cookies are the same size (I weigh mine. And most of the cookies that I make weigh between 30-35 grams)
  • use a timer (a kitchen timer, your microwave, your stove or your iphone)
  • cookies are done when they are dry on top and just a hint of golden brown on the bottom (to check if they are ready to come out of the oven, flip one over onto your oven-mitted hand and see if it has turned golden)
  • after you take the cookies out of the oven, place the cookie tray on rack for 1-5 minutes. The cookies will continue to cook. After that time (the recipe usually states how long to cool on the tray) place them directly on a rack to cool. They will firm up quite a bit.
  • almost all cookie doughs freeze very well (before they are baked).
  • I quite often will make some cookie dough, shape it into a flat disc, and freeze until I’m ready to bake the cookies. Let the dough thaw overnight in the fridge and then the next day, form into cookies and bake as usual.
  • You can also shape the cookie dough into cookies and freeze on a flat tray until hard, and then place in a ziplock bag. Bake the cookies from frozen (add 1-2 minutes to baking time).


stack of mocha-chocolate-chip-oat-cookies

Mocha Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

Print Recipe
Serves: 36-40 Cooking Time: 9-10


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/4 cups quick oats
  • 1/2 tbsp instant espresso powder
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (dark or semi-sweet)



Beat softened butter with sugars until light and fluffy.


Add eggs one at a time.


Dissolve espresso powder in the vanilla. Add to the egg/sugar mixture.


In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, cocoa, oats, baking powder and baking soda.


Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix gently until combined.


Stir in chocolate chips


Weigh out approximately 35 grams of cookie dough. Roll it into a ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.


Baking in 375 ° oven for 9-10 minutes until dry on top and slightly golden underneath.


Remove from oven, place on wire rack for 1 minute. Remove cookies from tray and place directly on rack to cool.


Makes about 36-40 cookies.


Honey Maple Whole Oat Granola Recipe

honey maple whole oat granola


This is a fantastic recipe for Honey Maple Whole Oat Granola. It is chock full of dried fruit, nuts and toasty oats.

When I was a teenager I went through a phase of making granola for practically every big gathering with my friends.  I made granola for potluck dinners, going away parties and camping trips. Whatever the event,  I would be there with a 3 pound bag of my latest granola invention.

Granola is super easy to make. You don’t really need a recipe to make granola, but it is good to have a basic one to know the proportions of wet to dry ingredients as well as the amount of fruit and nuts to use. Homemade granola is also much healthier as it is lower in sugar and salt than store bought. And just by changing the sweeteners and using an assortment of nuts, dried fruit, and grains you can make hundreds of different combinations.

You could increase the sweetness to go on top of an apple crumble or to sprinkle on ice cream for dessert. Use less sweetener for a breakfast granola, or extra nuts for energy snacks for hikes or bike rides. A handful of chocolate chips or chocolate nibs after baking adds a burst of sweetness for a fantastic boost in energy. Excellent sweeteners to use range from maple syrup in the spring when the sap is running or honey in the fall when farmer’s market stalls are bursting with pails of wild flower, clover or buckwheat honey.

My son and I really like this granola for breakfast or snack with yogurt. It’s not too sweet and the cinnamon and ginger adds a lovely hint of flavour.

granola and yogurt in glass with blue napkin

Honey Maple Whole Oat Granola with Vanilla and Cinnamon

Print Recipe
Serves: 12-16 Cooking Time: 30


  • 1 3/4 cup quick oats
  • 1 1/4 cup whole oats
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup whole almonds, chopped



Preheat oven to 325 degrees.


Line baking sheet with parchment paper.


Melt the honey, butter, vanilla and maple syrup in a small pot on the stove or in a bowl in the microwave.


Mix together the two oats and spices. Pour the liquid into the oat mixture and stir to combine.


Pour onto the baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread out the oat mixture a bit, but not too thin as the individual oats will cook too fast and dry out or burn.


Bake granola for 10-12 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes then add: the cranberries, raisins and chopped almonds.


Continue cooking for about 5 minutes more, until oats are starting to turn golden, then remove from oven.


Put the tray on a wire rack. Leave the granola on the tray until cool. Store in a cool, dark place.

frozen rosebud close-up

icy rosebud